Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Ed Wood Wednesdays: The Wood Magazine Orbit, Part One by Greg Dziawer

Some gentlemen get to know each other in this 1971 magazine from Calga.

Au-topsy, Au-turvy: Calga's My Boys

My Boys, Vol. 2. No. 3. Aug/Sep 1971.
We ended last week's Ed Wood Wednesdays by mentioning that, in the coming year, we'll venture into a new series of articles I've dubbed the Wood Orbit. The Orbit will be devoted to establishing parameters in which Ed's work might have appeared, sensitive in avoiding any false Ed-tributions while casting a wide and inclusive net.

With upwards of a thousand magazines in which Ed's work may have appeared, and Wood's own claim to have penned a thousand magazine short stories and articles, the Orbit of the magazines is a vast one. This week, in our very first Orbit, we'll summarize a typical Calga magazine from 1971, the very heart of Ed's involvement in adult magazines.

My Boys, Vol. 2., No. 3, Aug/Sep 1971, Calga Publishers, Inc.

Launched in May/June 1970, the gay-themed Calga mag My Boys ran a mere five issues, this number being the last. Calga, you may remember, was the sister publisher to Pendulum, both carrying the W. Pico Blvd. address in Los Angeles were Ed was working as staff writer for publisher Bernie Bloom. Ed was the most prolific of the four or five writers on the Pendulum staff, operating across all fronts. In particular, Ed often wrote the lion's share of nearly all textual content in dozens of gay-themed Pendulum-family mags in the early '70s.

Having seen three out of the run's five issues, I noted that My Boys was unique in being holistic. The photos and accompanying texts are fully integrated in each issue, the former drawing from the same small cadre of models and the latter imagining a narrative and characters for the actions depicted, developing in a pass-the-baton fashion from each photo feature to the next.

The cast of characters for this particular issue of My Boys consists of Don, who is the catalyst of this free-love cohort and who tells the entire story in first person, and his "boys," Kirk, Bruce, Randy, and Pete. All are characteristic of the (largely unknown) models in the Pendulum-family mags: a bunch of nice-looking, everyday guys, presented authentically. The tone of the accompanying texts, which are substantial enough to add up to their own short stories, is almost childlike and innocent, even though the vocabulary is sexually graphic in the extreme. As is also characteristic of the editorial stance of the Pendulum-family mags, the free love ethos is expressed naturally, without judgment, often even celebrated.

This issue of My Boys contains five photo features, as follows:

Get to know Don and the boys.
"The Nature Lover"

Don describes an encounter in his apartment—looks to be a minimalist studio set from the photos, especially vibrant in the smattering of color photos sprinkled throughout—with one of his boys, Kirk. After they are spent, in the hopes of getting things started again, Don tells Kirk about an encounter at his "camp" in the woods with another of his boys, Bruce. That story is told in the next feature:

"Picnic in the Woods"
To try to make up for holding out on him I decided to go down on him and treat him to a real nice blow job. And you know something? I think I got as much out of it as he did.
With no basket or sandwiches evident, Don and Bruce snack on each other! (Ha ha ha. The fun tone of these texts is catching.) In midstream, their encounter ends in both the text and the photos, returning to Don and Kirk in Don's bedroom from the first story. Don's ploy works, reigniting Kirk, that encounter next described. The last line introduces us to the next story:

"Sticks & Stones"
I mean, there's just something about bringing a thick length of whip right down across another guy's back. And hearin' him groan and cry out, well, that's like the icing on the chocolate cake!
Don, again narrating a past encounter to Kirk, is back out in the woods with S&M enthusiast Randy, Don endeavoring to get his "jollies," a word held dear in Ed Wood's personal toolkit as a writer. By this point, the avid reader will have noted a complex story-within-a-story emerging, perhaps inadvertently post-modern, and for me recalling the circular narratives of Alain Robbe-Grillet's fiction or Max Ophul's 1950 film masterpiece La Ronde. Dan Callahan's Slant review of La Ronde even describes that film as containing a "daisy-chain" of vignettes. Although I was in no way looking for that reference, the text in My Boys uses the exact same term. Yet unlike these works, and atypical of works that inevitably spiral inward toward calamity, it's already obvious by this point in the text that it's all drama-free, an uncomplicated good time to be had by Don and his boys.

Enjoying some outdoor activities in "Sticks & Stones."

I brought the whip down across his back and he yelped in pain. Oh, don't make any mistake. He loved it! I could see by the way he twitched his candy ass that waves of pleasure were starting to flow through his body.
Don finishes telling Kirk of his encounter with Randy, and the photos and text return to Don and Kirk, still in Don's bedroom during the initial encounter in the larger narrative, right back where we started. The text describing their subsequent sexual encounter contains my favorite line in the entire mag: "The tighter the track is, the hotter the lava flows. That's a basic law of sex." After Don and Kirk finish (again), Don introduces his next encounter with another of his boys. He tells Kirk about "the first time that Pete and I made it together in the woods." Which brings us to:

"The Golden Boy"
I won't go into it all, the details of how I made him one of my boys. That's a trade secret.
Don describes his encounter with Pete, accompanied by photos of the two in the woods, in de rigueur awkward poses. Although the language in adult paperbacks and mags had by 1971 reached its peak in terms of utter graphic profanity, the images in a mail-order mag like this one still maintained softie status. Magazines containing close-ups of various insertions and hard spurting cocks, as a mass consumer object, were still four or five years away. Ed would still have been writing for Bernie Bloom by that point, but that's another story.

Note the telltale dots at the end of the story.
"Everybody Comes!"

Don and Kirk are still hanging out in Kirk's apartment, when Bruce, Pete and Randy pop over for a surprise visit. After an orgy at Don's apartment, the group heads out into the woods.
At night I dream about the halcyon days that I've spent with Kirk and Bruce and Pete and Randy out in the bare woods. Bare bodies and bare woods. 
Ah! My boys!
A graphic of an ellipsis appears at the end of that last line. While I've seen this image elsewhere, it's omnipresent in the Pendulum-family of adult mags. By 1975, as only Gallery Press remained of the original Pendulum-family imprints, the "triple-dot" mags began making their appearance: anonymous single issues still containing Ed's work. The image itself would become a signature of Bernie and his son Noel Bloom's epic achievement: Swedish Erotica.

A reader's survey from My Boys.
Pendulum-family mags circa 1971 were, like My Boys, themed around certain sexual proclivities and preferences. The titles often gave it all away in a mere word or two: Lezo, Gay Studs, Swap, Switch Hitters. Most contained a few short stories and articles, often penned by Ed, and a variety of photo features. Photo features possessed accompanying texts ranging from haiku-like photo captions to full-on narratives. Editorials promoting free love and tolerance often appeared on the content pages. My Boys is unusual, though not singularly so, as later Gallery Press titles like Sam (a showcase for model Roberta Pedon) described first-person narratives around a circumscribed character set.

My Boys Vol. 2 No. 3 maintains its focus from cover to cover. Beyond the characters and narrative, there is an ad for other Pendulum-family gay-themed mags and an ad for a strip playing card deck from Calmail (another Bloom endeavor). There's also a very cool reader's survey, which even asks: "Do you prefer articles and stories told by one individual first hand in the style of intimate revelations?" Prefer them to what?

You are probably asking yourself if Ed Wood wrote all or part of  the text in this issue. The point of the Wood Orbit will be to spotlight possible venues where Ed's work might have appeared, not to make any Ed-tributions. The facts will speak for themselves. A gay-themed Calga mag out of the W. Pico office is a pretty good bet. While obvious signs of Ed's involvement, i.e. mentions of angora, or characters named Shirley, are lacking, there are a few details worth noting:
Another Ed Wood trademark.
  • "Fanny" as word usage for ass. "Fanny"s crop up often in known work by Ed. The 8mm loop series Fanny Films circa 1973, for example, was a product of Bernie Bloom's growing porn multimedia empire. Ed wrote box-cover descriptions for the series and wrote the onscreen subtitles accompanying these silent loops. The font of the subtitles and title and end cards are identical to same in the first nineteen Swedish Erotica loops. The technical tropes from Swedish Erotica—dissolve edits and camera pans, especially characters walking into and away from the camera—are all there in Fanny Films. Also present are the standard set decorations from Bloom's other productions: blankets, pillows, headboards, ashtrays, nightstands, lamps, wall hangings, even the Chinese "Foo Dogs" from Necromania.
  • I mentioned the use of the word "jollies" above, but in addition to it being a word in Ed's arsenal, the sentence in which it appears contains some familiar broken syntax: "After all, I still had my jollies to get and the afternoon was still early."
  • Colorful synonyms for the penis constitute a seemingly-inevitable pursuit for just about everyone who ever wrote pornographic texts. Ed, especially, excelled in this vein, fulfilled generally in the Pendulum-family mags. This issue of My Boys goes to great lengths (har har) to call a penis anything but: "bone," "sausage," "prick," "plumbing," "tool," "beef," "dork," "prong," "rod," "column," "whang," "dong," "staff," "pole," "wand." That's not even a complete list, and many of these terms are used multiple times.
Eddie or not, this issue of My Boys is a completely unique cultural artifact. They just won't make them like this ever again, and only did for a blink in time.

I am fully aware, by the way—knowing the extent of my Ed-fliction—that I may very well be the first person on Planet Earth to have read through this issue this carefully, pondering every word. I won't tell you, though, just how many times I've read through it in this manner. That's a trade secret. And it's not a secret if you don't keep it to yourself.

Bonus: Some uncensored, highly NSFW images from My Boys have been posted to the Ed Wood Wednesdays Tumblr. Enjoy.